By Kathlene Ekpenyong

The APC governorship candidate in Akwa Ibom State, Umana Umana has described the judges of the appeal court as corrupt and gullible people who are bent on collecting bribe to miscarry  judgement in favour of the highest bidder.

Mr Umana specifically singled out the three judges, Justice Moshood Abdulraman Oredola (chairman); Justice Biobene Abraham Georgewill (member) and Justice Y. P. Nimpar(member) who presided over the appeal by Chief Inibehe Okori aof the APC and Senator Godswill Akpabio of the PDP.

He accused the Appeal Court judges of extorting N10b from Senator Akpabio before giving him a favourable judgement as the winner of the Akwa Ibom North West senatorial district election.
He also took a swipe at the judges in the case of first instance when further maintained that the tribunal judges who earlier upheld Senator Akpabio election has soiled their palms with bribe.
According to Mr Umana, ‘Despite these clear electoral fraud, the Justice Goddy Anunihu-led Tribunal, with Justice A. O. Adebusoye and Justice A. M. Lamido as members on October 14, 2015, after allegedly receiving the sum of N6 billion from Godswill Akpabio decided,” to rule that card readers were not the only means of accreditation in the elections.

Mr. Umana Umana whose view was published on several newspapers and social media by his approved official Press Release Channel, APC News Alert, titled JUSTICE FOR SALE: AKPABIO AND THE N10 BILLION APPEAL COURT BRIBE, called on President Buhari and other anti graft agencies to investigate the bribe scandal.

The release read in part, “It is also a known fact that at 9 pm on Tuesday 8th December, 2015, Akpabio, accompanied by the Akwa Ibom State Attorney General and other persons, ferried huge sums of money from the Akwa Ibom International Airport (AKIA), to Abuja to compromise the Appeal Court panel that heard the appeal.

Staff of the airport had their phones confiscated from them by security personnel to prevent them from making any call so as not to expose the criminal act and only had their phones returned to them one hour thirty minutes after the plane carrying the cash might have landed “safely” in Abuja. It was from this money that Akpabio gave the Appeal Court panel the sum of N10 billion to rule in his favour. Is justice now for sale?. What a tragedy for Nigeria!

We wish to respectfully call on the President to order a full scale investigation,” he concluded.
Effort to read his the Senate minority leader Godswill Akpabio on this allegation was abortive as at press time, but the Chairman of the PDP in Akwa Ibom state Paul Ekpo dismissed the allegation as mere figment of the author’s imagination.

NB (SEE FULL ALLEGATION BELOW)

JUSTICE FOR SALE: AKPABIO AND THE N10 BILLION APPEAL COURT BRIBE
                 Matters Arising

By Akwa Ibom APC

On Friday, December 11, 2015 the Court of Appeal, Abuja Division comprising of: Justice Moshood Abdulraman Oredola (presiding); Justice Biobene Abraham Georgewill (member) and Justice Y. P. Nimpar (member) delivered judgement in an appeal filed by Chief Inibehe Okori the Akwa Ibom North West senatorial candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) against the decision of the National and State Houses of Assembly Election Tribunal which upheld the election of Chief Godswill Akpabio of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as winner of the March 28, 2015 Akwa Ibom North West senatorial election.

The basis upon which the Court of Appeal upheld Akpabio’s election has shown clearly that the judiciary is on trial in Nigeria and that corruption has eaten deep into our judicial system with little or no hope of abetting.

At the tribunal, Akpabio’s election was challenged on the grounds that he was not qualified to contest the election having not been nominated or sponsored by any political party for the Akwa Ibom North West senatorial election and that the election was invalid by reason of corrupt practices and non compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Act.

The grounds of the petition and the appeal were predicated on two indisputable facts, namely; that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the nomination forms filed with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) nominated Akpabio for the Akwa Ibom North East Senatorial District and not Akwa Ibom North West. Moreover, to show the clear and unambiguous nature of the irregularity that characterized the election, INEC’s Card Reader report showed that only 205, 519 voters were accredited to vote in the election made up of 90, 618 successful accreditation and 114, 901 failed accreditation. Surprisingly, INEC declared 422, 006 votes for Akpabio alone. Total inflated accreditation on the result sheet stood at 461, 702. Unsubstantiated accreditation – 256, 183. This resulted in a glaring case of over voting to the tune of 238, 986.

Despite these clear electoral fraud, the Justice Goddy Anunihu-led Tribunal, with Justice A. O. Adebusoye and Justice A. M. Lamido as members on October 14, 2015, after allegedly receiving the sum of N6 billion from Godswill Akpabio decided that 205, 519 voters casting 444,505 votes was legitimate and that the election was in substantial compliance with the provisions of the Electoral

Act and that the Card Reader report (the only means of credible and transparent accreditation) which proved clearly that only 205, 519 voters were accredited in the entire senatorial district and not 461, 702 as was inflated in the result sheet was admitted in “error”.

At the Court of Appeal, the Appellant further contended that the 1st Respondent (Akpabio) did not meet the requirement in Section 65 (2) (b) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) on the qualification of a candidate to contest for an election as a member of the Senate. This issue was premised on the fact that the 1st Respondent was actually nominated and sponsored by the 3rd Respondent (PDP) to contest for the Akwa Ibom North East Senatorial District Election and not for the Akwa Ibom North West Senatorial District Election.

In fact, Form CF 002 (the INEC’s Senatorial Elections submission of names of candidates by Political Party) and Form PD 004/NA/2014 (the PDP National Assembly Primary Election/Nomination of National Assembly Aspirant Form) which were admitted during the trial as Exhibits P 13 and P 14, respectively, vividly showed that Akpabio was nominated by his party to contest the senatorial election in Akwa Ibom North East Senatorial District Election.

Shockingly, the Court of Appeal in interpreting Section 65 (2) (b) of the Constitution held that the particular constituency a candidate is being sponsored to contest election does not matter. So come 2019, all that a political party needs to do is submit the name of a candidate to INEC and the candidate can proceed to choose in collaboration with INEC which State or constituency in any geo-political zone he or she wishes to contest the election and not necessarily where the candidate was actually nominated to. This is ridiculous to say the least.

The role of INEC in the whole episode is very worrisome and sets a dangerous tone for future elections in Nigeria. During the election and all through the trial, INEC abandoned its role as an unbiased umpire and saw nothing wrong in its rules, guidelines and operating laws being recklessly breached. It is noteworthy that the complaint against INEC in the entire petition was that it breached the provisions of section 31(1) of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) by substituting, altering or rejecting Akpabio’s nomination or sponsorship as the candidate of the PDP for election to the Senate for Akwa Ibom North East Senatorial District and placed him to contest election and returned him as the winner of the election in Akwa Ibom North West Senatorial District. INEC jumped into the arena of conflict in favour of Akpabio and PDP and claimed in their reply to the petition that Akpabio was sponsored in writing which they failed to substantiate at the trial.
A document of nomination is required to be in writing by the provisions of Section 31(1) and Section 32 of the Electoral Act. The law is trite that no oral evidence is admissible to contradict or substitute OR ALTER THE CONTENTS of that document.

It is settled law that documentary evidence is the ‘best evidence’ and that a document(s) speaks for itself and that oral evidence should not be allowed to contradict the contents of documents. What then is the fate of a country whose judiciary accepts the oral testimony of a PDP National Secretary that truly Akpabio was nominated in error and that such testimony can correct an alleged error in a candidate’s nomination documents?

The Appeal Court agreed with the Tribunal that Exhibit P15 (An affidavit merely containing the personal details of Akpabio) was enough for INEC to use to “normalize” Akpabio’s nomination error. Since when did an affidavit became a political party’s nomination document to contest an election in Nigeria?

The multi-million question remains how two vital documents (Exhibit P13 and P14), issued and signed on two different dates for two different distinct purposes bear the same error of nominating Akpabio for election in the wrong constituency and without any effort to correct the alleged error.
It is an open secret that Akpabio had boasted that he is not perturbed by the petition against his election and that what money cannot do, more money can do. It is also a known fact that at 9 pm on Tuesday 8th December, 2015, Akpabio, accompanied by the Akwa Ibom State Attorney General and other persons, ferried huge sums of money from the Akwa Ibom International Airport (AKIA), to Abuja to compromise the Appeal Court panel that heard the appeal.

Staff of the airport had their phones confiscated from them by security personnel to prevent them from making any call so as not to expose the criminal act and only had their phones returned to them one hour thirty minutes after the plane carrying the cash might have landed “safely” in Abuja. It was from this money that Akpabio gave the Appeal Court panel the sum of N10 billion to rule in his favour. Is justice now for sale?. What a tragedy for Nigeria!

We wish to respectfully call on the President to order a full scale investigation.
We also call for a full scale investigation on the subversive role played by the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) which  broadcasted that the election has been nullified even when judgement was yet to be delivered. It should also be noted that the Akwa Ibom State Commissioner for Information, Mr. Aniekan Umanah, who held same position during Akpabio’s tenure as Governor and other media aides of the Akwa Ibom State Government had announced the “victory” of Akpabio on social media long before the judgment was delivered.
What has become of Nigeria’s electoral process when the courts’ give legal backing to electoral fraud by insisting that 205, 519 persons can legitimately cast 444, 505 votes? Was this not a whooping case of over voting with the statutory consequence of nullification?

Independent observers, including observers from the European Union and the American Embassy in their separate reports resoundingly declared that the elections in Akwa Ibom and Rivers States were a sham and should be cancelled. Many innocent voters were killed in the two States. It baffles us that both the trial Tribunal and the Court of Appeal could still insist that Akpabio’s election was done in compliance with the laws of the land. So all those who died in the election died in vain and the blood of those innocent Akwa Ibomites was part of the substantial compliance principle? Why is justice such a scarce commodity in our country?

Notably, the same Court of Appeal has nullified all the three senatorial elections in Rivers State and all but one of the House of Representatives elections. So how come that elections were not cancelled ir annulled in Akwa Ibom State which was adjudged by international observers to have recorded the same massive violence and electoral fraud as was in Rivers State. It is clear that Akpabio was serious when he openly boasted that the Akwa Ibom election cases will be treated differently, the damaging reports of the European Union and US election monitoring teams that discredited the elections in the states notwithstanding. What else could be responsible for this double standard and disparity if not corruption?

Indeed the judiciary is on trial in Nigeria. No wonder the President said if we don’t kill Corruption, Corruption will kill us.

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